The following story is from our sister station in Iowa, KWWL.
"This is just so hard, to know that you will never, ever, ever see your daughter again," says Heather Collins, mother of murdered eight-year old Elizabeth Collins. "We so want her back in our arms,"
In her first interview since learning of her daughter's death, Heather Collins told KWWL Monday night, "I don't need to know how she was murdered. I don't need to know what anybody has done to her, because that's in God's hands. All I know is that I don't have my daughter here anymore and she is up in Heaven with our Savior. That's all I need to know."
Authorities confirmed Monday that the two bodies found last Wednesday by hunters in Bremer County are those of Elizabeth Collins and her cousin, ten-year old Lyric Cook.
Heather admits she worries about hearing any of what could be very gruesome details, as the investigation moves forward. In a 21-minute interview, she told KWWL, "The more I know and the more evil I know about it; it would consume me. It would consume my mind, and I don't need that"
"By the Grace of God," Heather replies, when asked how she and husband, Drew Collins, have been able to deal with the tragedy of losing a child by murder.
She adds, "We knew when they went missing we had two possible outcomes. We were praying for the best, even though we knew the worst could be coming. The worst did happen, so we just rely on The Lord every minute of the day to get us through, each and every moment, and he does."
Heather says the whole ordeal has taken its toll on her husband. She says Drew has taken it particularly hard because, "Him, being the Dad, he is the protector of the family and he wasn't able to protect her that day," she says.
What does she miss most about Elizabeth? "Her smile and her laughter. She had a beautiful smile and she loved to laugh," says Heather.
"I think they're doing okay," says Heather, when talking about how the disappearance and now, the death of Elizabeth, has impacted the Collin's three other children at home.
"They have their sad moments, but I think they're handling it pretty well," she adds.
Their son, Kelly, is 13, while daughter, Amber, is 7. The youngest is 4-year old Callie.
Amber is a first-grader at Poyner Elementary school in Evansdale; the same school where Elizabeth would have been a 4th grader this year.
Amber has already said she will forgive whoever took the lives of Elizabeth and Lyric. But, Amber also wants more. Heather says, "She really wants to be able to talk to this person; whoever did this to them. She wants to tell them that she forgives them, but that she does not like what they did to her sister. That her sister was a really good person. That she loved her sister a lot and that they did not need to do that to her; they did not need to take her life."
Heather admits the family has had many, many difficult days. Sometimes, she and Drew simply break down and cry and just hold each other, she says.
Drew and the three children have started counseling, in an effort to deal with what has happened over the past months. Heather says she has gone with Drew only once to the counseling sessions, and, is not actively taking part, "I don't go," she says, "If Drew needs me to come with him, I go with him, If he needs me to support him, I go with him."
Instead, she says, "My thing is to just get on my knees and pray, and to read His word in The Bible. That's where I get my peace. That's where I get my strength." She says some people need to sort out why this happened and talk about that. "And, that's fine. I don't need that,' she says.
Heather says Elizabeth often speaks to her in vivid dreams. She says, "It's like she is right next to me. I hear her voice clearly."
Heather was sick at home last Wednesday, December 5, when she got a call from Drew. At the time, they did not know hunters in Bremer County had discovered the remains of two bodies.
Heather was in bed when Drew called and said to her, "Heather. We've been called to City Hall, and we don't know what it is." She says that was the pre-determined protocol the past nearly five months. If there was any news, they were to go to Evansdale City Hall to find out what had happened.
Heather recalls she had a gut feeling it wasn't good. She said they immediately drove to Evansdale City Hall. Once inside, "Kent Smock (Evansdale Police Chief) told us, in the best way he could tell us, that two hunters came upon two girls, and that they believe it's Elizabeth and Lyric, and they are no longer on this earth with us."
Their reaction was what you'd expect from loving and dedicated parents, whom have just been told their eight-year old daughter is dead. "Drew and I just embraced each other and cried."
The bodies, they were told, had been sent to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Ankeny for positive identification. Heather says authorities showed them items removed from the crime scene at the 7 Bridges Wildlife area in Bremer County, about 25 miles north of Evansdale.
Heather said authorities showed them some of the evidence. ‘It was Elizabeth's and Lyric's." she said.
Five days later, on Monday, December 10, Heathers says she got the call from Police Chief, Kent Smock, confirming that the bodies were those of Elizabeth and Lyric. "I was prepared for it," she said, when asked about getting the official identity confirmation from Chief Smock. "We already knew it was them, but they had to do DNA testing to make sure."
She did not say what items had been found at the scene or anything about the condition of the bodies or where they were found in the park.
Heather added, "We, at least know where she is now. She's in a much better place, even though it's not the outcome that we wanted. Now, we need to find out who did this."
Heather says Monday was a very rough day, as the family listened to songs which would be played at what she calls a ‘Love and Life' celebration for Elizabeth Thursday. Even though the body of Elizabeth will not be at the Heartland Vineyard Church, she says the family feels it necessary to have the service now, and bury Elizabeth's body later.
Lyric's services, she says, will be held at a later time, as determined by Lyric's Mom, Misty Morrisey, Heather's sister. Heather says she has not spoken to her sister, Misty, in quite some time. Heather told KWWL she respects her sister's wishes to hold Lyric's services at a later date.
The public is invited to Thursday's Love and Life celebration for Elizabeth at Heartland Vineyard Church on Greenhill Road in Cedar Falls. The event will begin at 5 pm.
Heather says the family will enter the church sanctuary to the popular David Crowder Band song, ‘Oh, How He Loves Us.' It will be a celebration of Elizabeth's life and will include music, food, beverage and worship. "Elizabeth loved worship," says Heather.
There will be an ongoing video tribute to Elizabeth at the church and several songs will be played, including one of Elizabeth's favorites; ‘Oh, Happy Day,'
"Come look at her life," Heather says. "We want people to just come away with renewed faith and feel refreshed and feel peace." Heather adds, "We're gonna have a party. She's at home with Our father in Heaven."
She offered huge thanks to everyone who has prayed and supported the family throughout the agonizing ordeal, saying, "The community took these girls under their arms. They have been just amazing. Thank you for all of your support, love and prayers."
"We don't know who did this. We, of course, want to catch whoever did this. Everybody is still on edge," she notes. Despite the girls' murders, Heather says she hopes the celebration will help the community heal. She said she wants people to come away with a sense of peace, in that "God has this is His hands, and he always has. He never left us."
On the very tough days, Heather says she talks directly to God, saying, "Give me the strength to deal with this, Lord, because I don't know how to deal with this. This is just so hard to deal with."
Heather says investigators are still keeping them informed of the ongoing investigation. However, she says investigators are also being cautious about how much information they tell the family, so as not to risk releasing information which could jeopardize the investigation. For example, they would not want to leak any details which only the killer or killers would know.
Heather thanks the investigators, saying "We know they are working night and day on this and that they want this so bad. They want to catch the person who did this to our girls. They were so hoping they would find the girls alive."
Adding even more stress to the family soon will be surgery for Heather. Due to some previous heart problems, she has an implanted defibrillator. It's been moving around in recent weeks and causing Heather a great deal of pain.
The surgery, which may occur even before Christmas, will take place at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and last up to eight hours. The Mayo Clinic doctors will take out the old defibrillator and make adjustments to the device. Then, they will implant the repaired defibrillator in a different location in Heather's body to make the life-saving device more stable.
Of the killer, Heather says, "God will take care of that person on Judgment Day. I know she's with the Lord, and that's really all I need to know."
Heather certainly has questions as to why someone would kill the girls. What could possibly have been the motivation behind what happened on July 13, when the girls disappeared while on a bike ride? Still, she means ready to forgive.
"I have said, from day one, We forgive whoever did this, and we still do. Whoever did this; we forgive you. It is not for us to judge you, to judge what you have done to our beautiful daughter and to our niece. It's in God's hands, and He will take care of it."